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Tech Helps Solar Panels During Winter

Friday, May 3, 2019

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Researchers based out the University of California, Los Angeles, recently developed a way to keep solar panels generating power through the winter months: a triboelectric nanogenerator that generates energy through the use of static electricity.

The device, known as a snow-based triboelectric nanogenerator, or snow TENG, produces energy from exchanging electrons. The first incarnation of the device is inexpensive, thin, small and flexible like plastic, according to the university.

Powered by Static

The snow TENG, made of silicone, has a negative charge, and when it interacts with snow, which has a positive charge, electrons are exchanged and energy is produced.

“Snow is already charged, so we thought, why not bring another material with the opposite charge and extract the charge to create electricity?” said co-author and UCLA assistant researcher of chemistry and biochemistry Maher El-Kady.

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Researchers based out the University of California, Los Angeles, recently developed a way to keep solar panels generating power through the winter months: a triboelectric nanogenerator that generates energy through the use of static electricity.

El-Kady added that after testing a number of materials, “including aluminum foils and Teflon,” the research team found that silicone could produce more charge than “any other material.”

Snow accumulation has a known negative impact on solar panels’ ability to operate, due to the reduced amount of sunlight reaching the panel. The new technology could work in tandem with solar panels to produce energy even when it snows, though the amount of electricity generated would be small.

To design the snow TENG, which is also equipped with an electrode to capture the charge, the research team implemented 3D printing. The cost of production would also likely be low, due to the availability of silicone.

Snow TENG also shows promise in tracking fitness, as well as tracking movement patterns used in sports like cross-country skiing.

“The device can work in remote areas because it provides its own power and does not need batteries,” said senior author Richard Kaner. “It’s a very clever device—a weather station that can tell you how much snow is falling, the direction the snow is falling, and the direction and speed of the wind.”

Findings related to the device were published in Nano Energy. Co-authors include: Abdelsalam Ahmed, based out of the University of Toronto; Islam Hassan and Ravi Selvaganapathy of McMaster University; and James Rusling of the University of Connecticut, as well as his research team.

   

Tagged categories: EU; North America; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Silicone; Solar energy

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